Continuing my reading of the Rutgers Byzantine Series I just completed Origins of the Greek Nation, The Byzantine Period 1204-1461 by Apostolos E. Vacalopoulos.
As a recent poster in this thread made comment that there were not enough reviews in this thread, I must elaborate on the work.
First, it dispelled some preconceptions, false ones, I had about "Greeks" - both ancient and modern. I had always assumed that modern Greeks were more of a recent invention with little real connection to the ancient Hellenes. AND I had assumed, as many here also, that "Roman", referring to Byzantine (East Roman), meant a multi-ethnic political entity. In fact this was so, but not for the entire East Roman period. Vacalopoulos points out that by 1204 the empire had in fact been reduced to an area populated alomost exclusively by Hellenes who were awakening to their ancient Hellenic roots. Previously "Hellene" connoted pagan, while "Roman" meant Christian. By 1204, this had changed and the Greek Byzantines were employing BOTH terms in self description.
Yes, there was some absorbing of Serbs, Vlachs and Albanians, but for the most part the Greeks knew they were , well, Greek. Their 'country" was the empire (in reduced area). Now I understand the "Great Idea" of reconquering Constantinople, Pontus, Ionia. The empire - now less Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia - was "Greek country" by then.
The book goes further detailing the effects of the Turkish take-over of the Hellenic area - the quick apostasy of the aristocrats wishing to preserve wealth and the migrations west for those who could afford to do so. Sad stories are related of many of the Greeks and what they had to do to survive in the west, (Venice, Genoa, Spain). Most interesting were his descriptions of the Church filling the void for the ordinary Christians, now deserted by their landlords, orphaned by the emperor.
I may be a "Greek"-American but I don't think I can quite be so quick to judge a real Greek when he views the "Greek Orthodox Church" to be his church, for Greeks. Not that I agree with that sentiment (I don't) but I can understand it much better now.